Ambassador Rice: Good morning everyone. We have been meeting this morning in the Council to discuss the situation in Iraq. In consultations, I underscored that the March 7 elections, which were validated by domestic and international observers as free and fair, marked a very important milestone in Iraq’s democratic development. The Iraqi people expressed their will and now we call upon the Iraqi leadership to quickly form an inclusive government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people. We also expressed our appreciation for the good work of the Independent High Electoral Commission in certifying the recount in Baghdad and we look forward to the Iraqi Supreme Court certifying the final results. I also expressed our appreciation for UNAMI and the men and women of that mission under the leadership of Ad Melkart, who are doing really remarkably good work in support of Iraqi people’s aspiration for security, democracy and lasting prosperity. I’m happy to take your questions.
Reporter: First on Iraq, can you tell us whether the failure to form an Iraqi government is going to have any impact on the U.S. timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. And I’m sure everybody here would then like to know what’s happening with the negotiations on an Iran sanctions resolution. Are they moving ahead, are you expecting to bring this to a vote sometime soon? And also what’s happening with North Korea—
Ambassador Rice: Alright, that’s the end of the press conference. Edie’s asked all your questions. Let me begin with Iraq and say that the Iraqi parties and leadership continue to be in process of government formation. We look forward to that concluding swiftly. And as I said we encourage the swift formation of an inclusive government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people, and we believe that will be forthcoming. As for the U.S. military drawdown as you know we remain on track to meet the timetable that the United States and Iraq agreed to which would end the combat mission at the end of August of this year and have all American troops out by the end of 2011. That remains our plan and our intention.
With respect to Iran, we continue to be in good negotiations and consultations with the full Council. We’ve had a number of meetings of the experts. We’re working through the text of the resolution, we’ve had very constructive feedback from our colleagues on the Security Council and we will wrap up those negotiations as soon as is feasible.
With respect to North Korea –did you say North Korea or did you have a specific question?
Reporter: Well I say North Korea because there have been reports that there would be action in the Security Council yesterday, which didn’t happen but possibly sometime later this week either the tabling of a resolution or perhaps a PRST, we don’t know.
Ambassador Rice: Well let me back up and say that we very much support the steps that President Lee announced yesterday as being appropriate and well tailored to the circumstances at hand. The United States support for South Korea is strong and unwavering across the spectrum. South Korea has indicated that it will bring this to issue to the attention of the Security Council at the appropriate time, and we await South Korea’s decision as to when and how it will bring this to the Security Council, and when it does we will work not only with South Korea, but other partners on the Security Council to determine the appropriate form and content of a Council response. In the meantime, I am in regular discussions with colleagues on the Council who are particularly concerned with this issue. Secretary Clinton, of course, on her trip in the region, has been doing the same.
Reporter: On the Iran sanctions resolution, have the full members or the non-permanent members requested any specific changes in what you had already negotiated and do you anticipate any problems with trying to push through? I don’t know if you’re going to pursue sanctions on North Korea, but trying to push them through simultaneously?
Ambassador Rice: Iran first. In the context of the negotiations on the resolution at the full Council, obviously they’re ongoing and I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome, but I think our view is thus far, the inputs and comments we’ve received from fellow Council members have been constructive. They have improved the text and we’ve welcomed the spirit in which they have been contributing.
On North Korea, I think frankly, we’re the United Nations Security Council and we need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time and I’m confident that we’ll be able to manage both North Korea and Iran simultaneously if need be.
Reporter: Ambassador, on NPT, since this is the last week of the NPT negotiations, do you think we will be able to come out with any agreement and also how is the nuclear weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East coming along?
Ambassador Rice: Well as you say this is the last week. It’s been, I think, thus far, a constructive process that we’ve certainly been working hard to contribute to. Obviously the last week is when the drama occurs and I don’t want to preempt it, but suffice it to say, we’re working hard with others to try and conclude this conference successfully and I’m hopeful that that will be the case.
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